Our generation were often taught in ‘scripture’ at school. If you didn’t get them there, they were part of our folklore anyway: The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, The Lost Sheep, all attributed to a wandering Jewish carpenter turned teacher/philosopher/messiah.
The Parables are remarkable for their brevity and their deep insight into the human condition. But their teacher – a man called Jesus – often claimed more about them when he said, “The kingdom of God is like…”.
That they – so simple in form – reflect a glimpse of some other reality makes them worth a second look. Consider, for instance, this:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew13)
My daughters are shoppers. And how. GraysOnline, eBay are a more than routine part of their purchasing patterns. What are they buying? Anything that they perceive will make their lives happier, easier, richer. Have they got to the point in their lives of shopping for meaning? Not so sure. But when they do, they will shop! And then, watch out the bishops, new-agers and gurus. They’ll shop hard till they get the answers they want.
The pearl merchant shopped and searched for excellence. He wanted to posses the ultimate prize. He was prepared to dispose of everything else in order to achieve that magic joyous moment of exchange of the less valued for the ultimate prize. Is this what the kingdom of heaven is? The most valued sought after purchase of our existence? The thing in the light of which, everything else fades into insignificance? In our shopping experience, often the ultimate prize seems hidden from us. But once we see it, our focus can go nowhere else. I suspect that this was what Jesus hoped for all of us.
But there may be more. The parables about the Kingdom of Heaven to me often are about this Jewish teacher and how he saw himself. In telling this story was he talking about himself searching out the great and most valued thing to him in the universe? Each person. You. Me. That our value was beyond price? Was he prepared to make whatever spiritual transaction was required, no matter what the cost, to open the Kingdom of Heaven in all its happiness to us who are searching for meaning?